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James Iha joins open-door alt.rock act A Perfect Circle
March 26, 2004, 3:11 am

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Copyright Las Vegas Mercury
Music: Experience preferred

James Iha joins open-door alt.rock act A Perfect Circle

By Mike Prevatt

When news spread last year that quintet A Perfect Circle had hired bassist Jordie Osbourne White (a.k.a. Twiggy Ramirez, formerly of Marilyn Manson) and guitarist James Iha (formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins), it almost seemed the band had become a home for displaced rock musicians. After all, drummer Josh Freese had once been in the Vandals and Guns N' Roses, and previous members have included Troy Van Leeuwen (ex-Failure and Enemy guitarist) and now co-producer Danny Lohner (ex-Nine Inch Nails guitarist).

However, Iha's connection to the band actually dates to the early `90s, when APC leader and co-songwriter Billy Howerdel served as the Pumpkins' guitar tech. And apparently, keeping the axes in tune wasn't his only task. "[He was a] hell of a tennis player, made all the shots down the line, great backhand, rambunctious," says Iha, in a playful mood as he prepares to depart for the band's headlining arena tour. "I dunno," he continues, "he did what a guitar tech did. I knew he wrote songs, and I think he might have even played some of them for me."

Iha had no idea then that Howerdel would be doing that again a decade later, with the boss duties being switched. A year ago, Howerdel e-mailed Iha, who had been laying low after the Pumpkins' demise in December 2000 and simply asked him if he wanted to play guitar for A Perfect Circle's club tour in support of its then-yet-to-be-released second album, The Thirteenth Step. He accepted the offer, which meant quickly having to learn two albums' worth of material.

"It was difficult in the sense at the beginning because...I hadn't been playing guitar in the past three years and hadn't seen myself getting into another band, so it was out of the blue," says Iha. "I'd only played in one band in my life, so it was daunting getting into another band's thing, learning their songs, kind of like learn their vocabulary. I'm definitely not a session musician."

And A Perfect Circle is definitely not your typical alt.rock radio band; it remains one of the anomalies on the airwaves. It appeals to programmers because singer Maynard James Keenan is also leadman for popular art-metal band Tool, and the band's songs are often melodic enough to hold listeners' ever-shrinking attention spans. Music fans and critics are drawn to the act because of those things as well, but, more importantly, APC does not flinch in the artistic risk department.

"They are unique," says Iha. "Nobody sings like Maynard, and the music is really interesting. It's not really like what's going on at the moment. It's a unique style of music, the way [Howerdel] writes. And it really seems to get people. I guess that`s what's special [about A Perfect Circle]."

Its music has bludgeoning, metallic moments, and it also exhibits an ambient-like atmosphere that's nearly lulling--like bands such as Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails and Iha's old band. It's not a stretch to think some of the old Pumpkins fans have turned to APC, especially with Iha in the lineup.

"The bands are totally different in one sense," he says, "but they probably have the same demographic, and they probably like that both bands are dynamic, light, dark, heavy, soft--the things that they have in common."

Iha's down with working on the next APC record. "I hope so," he says. "The band is the band right now. It's just, Maynard will be going back to Tool after this tour is done, so it's hard to say when we'll play again."

In the meantime, he'll work on various projects, including a possible follow-up to his 1998 solo outing, Let It Come Down. "Hopefully I'll be producing bands and working on my own record. I don't have a deadline or anything; it's not anything pressing. I'm going to see what happens."

Credit: Denise @ Base Tendencies

Source: Las Vegas Mercury